Caribbean Tourism Group Tries Leveraging Cuba’s Growth

With Cuba back on the radar for U.S. tourism, thanks to a diplomatic thaw, the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association is working on a plan to harness the country's growing travel demand so it benefits tourism throughout the region.

Cuba’s slow resurgence could be a great thing for the island nation—especially considering Tuesday’s decision by Cuba and the United States to reopen embassies in Havana and Washington, DC. For the rest of the Caribbean, things are a bit more up in the air.

The Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA), which represents most of the tourism hotspots around the Caribbean, is speaking up about the return to normalcy between the United States and Cuba. In a recent white paper [PDF], the association called the diplomatic shift “[t]he biggest and most disruptive pebble to be dropped into the Caribbean pool in 50 years.”

That’s not to say that the CHTA isn’t interested in seeing Cuba expand its tourism, but the association hopes that Cuba’s recent success in drawing new travelers can help raise all tides—not just the one that’s grabbing all the headlines at the moment.

“If we continue to operate business as usual, and we all draw from the same pie and Cuba is in the equation … there will be serious economic and employment consequences,” CHTA CEO Frank Comito told the Associated Press recently.

The association’s solution to this problem involves a new plan, called the Caribbean Basin Tourism Initiative, which would encourage tourism throughout the Caribbean—not just in Cuba. The goal would be to leverage Cuba’s current growth—the country saw a 36 percent increase in U.S. visitors between January and May of this year, compared with the same period a year ago—and build policy and promotional approaches that push tourists to look at the entire region as a travel opportunity, with Cuba being a significant part of it.

CHTA President Emil Lee added that such a strategy could help create collaboration among the region’s many countries, ensuring that the short-term benefits of tourism in Cuba can be translated into long-term returns.

“We recognize that the opening of Cuba to American tourists will have an impact on both Cuba and the region and want to maximize the positive benefits for all stakeholders and, at the same time, set a tone for a new era of cooperation among Caribbean nations,” Lee said in a news release.


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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